Thick Skin and Tuning Out the World

MotherHoldingChild

You know the feeling.

You know the look of disdain from a person who could be offering help, but instead offers hurt.

You know the whisper that clearly is speaking harm when it is hope that is needed.

You know the directly spoken criticism, and the obvious cold stares. The lack of compassion and care.

People in this world can be downright brutal, especially to those caring for children with special needs. And sadly these people can be total strangers, or they can be those closest to us.

How can we respond to the hurt caused by others in a way that honors God? Is there a way we can respond to make the situation better, not worse, for all of us?

Put on thick skin

Putting on thick skin means not taking ugly stares or words so personally. It means not letting them get to you. Water off a duck’s back. (Or I like- “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”)

I have found the best way to deflect hurtful words is to cling to what I know is true. I can think about the other person- who is usually speaking out of ignorance- and try and offer them grace. Their judgements are usually lies- and according to scripture, lies come from Satan Himself. Our best defense then is to cling to Christ and put forth His truth, His word, over the situation. It also helps me to think that I’m probably not the only person this person is mean to- and that makes it their problem, not mine.

Tune out the world

We are called to be in this world, but not of this world. And this world can be a pretty scary place. The world is filled with pressure to be perfect, pressure to have and be more than we are. If our eyes and ears are tuned in to all of that, we get beat down and discouraged. Discontentment drowns our spirit, and we can’t see past our failures shortcomings. And even more dangerous, we can get to where can’t see past our child’s failures and shortcomings.

Tuning out the “big” world means treasuring the “little world” God has put me in. I like to say, “draw a circle around us” and find contentment again. Find thanksgiving again. Find peace again. When I tune out the world, I find that I love what God has placed in my little world.

You have assigned me my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure. The boundaries have fallen for me in pleasant places.  Psalm 16:5-6

Cling to Christ

Coming through Holy Week, and meditating on the week before Jesus’ crucifixion, I realized how much hate and cruelty Jesus withstood. They were brutal to Jesus too. What can we learn from how he handled pain so much worse than mine?

When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate. He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23

I love the words “He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.” The dictionary says that to entrust means “to give someone the responsibility of doing something or caring for something else or someone else.” So if I entrust myself to God, then I am giving Him the responsibility of doing something or caring for me. It means I give over control of my care to Him and trust Him to protect and to provide for all my needs as He has promised.

When babies are scared, they turn and press their face into their mother, clinging to her for protection. I want to do the same- turning away from the scary world, pressing hard into Christ, and clinging to Him for my protection and provision.

Jesus did as He had taught His followers in Matthew 5:39, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” He also told His disciples that the world would reject them as they rejected Him. We can expect to get struck, and we can find the strength in Christ to turn our cheek the other way.

Shine!

The way we live out our lives is a constant example for others to see. The way we parent our children is also a constant example. And the way we handle stress- both from within our current circumstances and from the outside hurtful looks and words of others- can be a witness to many.

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.  1 Peter 3:15

Live such good lives among the pagans that though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.  1 Peter 2:12

So we can put on our thick skin and head out into the world, ready to tune out its hurt, cling to Christ, and shine for Him as we love the precious ones He’s given us.

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Resurrection Power

EmptyCross

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. Philippians 3:10

We celebrate Easter this week- a beautiful day! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

The ultimate expression of Christ’s power was shown in His resurrection- His triumph over death, His victory over sin. And because of His payment for the penalty of our sin, and His Holy Spirit now living in us, we have His resurrection power available to us.

As I head into another full week, I want to be sure my power resources are on full.

With His power, I can follow His will. I can obey. Even before the resurrection had happened, Mary was tapped in to this supernatural power. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1: 35). To follow the specific calling God had placed on her life, Mary needed His Spirit to obey with heart, soul, mind and strength.  So too do we need His power to walk in submission to His perfect will for our lives. “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” I believe our true callings are placed just out of reach of our own skills and experiences, to where we have to rely on His strength alone to live them out.

With His power, I can withstand life’s trials. I can endure. The storms of life come hard, and most often they come harder and last longer than we can withstand on our own. But Christ’s power keeps us standing, helps us see with eternal eyes, and gives that peace that transcends understanding.  We can endure difficult circumstances with His strength, and we can endure difficult people with His patience.  “…Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”  Colossians 1:11

 

With His power, I can battle my enemies. I can fight. What enemies threaten your peace? Your safety? Your faith? Are you armed with Christ’s resurrection power for the promised victory? He conquered death when He rose from the grave. His is the victory now and forever. If we will fight in His power, He will defeat our enemies and restore His eternal peace. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10

I am reminded of the familiar story of a great master pianist who had gotten up from the piano to bow before the audience applause. When he did so, a small child wandered up on to the stage, climbed up and sat at the piano and begin plinking on the keys. Finding great humor in this, the master pianist came around behind the child, encircled him with his long arms, and began performing another masterpiece that far outshadowed the child’s continued plinking.

So, too, with us, the Master takes our feeble offering and turns it into a masterpiece. His power overshadows our own, and in the end, He receives the deserved glory for a life played out unto Him.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Christian artist Toby Mac has a hit song “Steal My Show.”

“If you want to steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch you go.

If you’ve got something to say, go on and take it away.

Need you to steal my show, Can’t wait to watch you go

Go on and take it away.”

When I live in resurrection power, my life brings glory to the One who resurrected. I receive needed strength and He receives the glory due His name alone.

Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.  Revelation 7:12

Sick Kids, Sovereign God

sickchildIn my book, sick kids always trump ministry or work.

On the days when I have a child come up sick, I know that whatever I was thinking I was supposed to do that day, I wasn’t.

We recently served with a group of high school students on an intergenerational mission trip to Honduras. Mid-week, my 15-year-old daughter became very sick. We had to miss out on that morning of ministry and an afternoon with a very special outing, and we were both very disappointed.

Several of the wisdom-seeking young girls had asked among the adults that week the question we all long to have answered, “How can we know God’s will for our lives?” Whether in choosing a college, or finding a husband, these girls were on a quest to know how to know what God wants them to do. The day my daughter was sick made for a good example of how God often uses the circumstances He allows into our life each day to show us His good, pleasing and perfect plan. For that day, my child was sick, and I needed to forego my ministry service role and fulfill my nurturing caregiver role with her.

Early in my motherhood journey, my mother said to me, “You’re only as happy as your saddest child.” And I think it has also gone like this: “You’re only as well as your sickest child.” A given mom-trait is empathy, the ability to share someone else’s (especially our child’s) feelings. When our children are sick, our hearts are broken, and we would rather take their place suffering than watch them suffer through.

Having a sick child is exhausting physically and emotionally, but are we able to see God’s hand in it? Are we able to sense His presence on those hard days? Are we able to tap His power for strength beyond ourselves? Are we able to trust that He is sovereign even over our child’s illness, whether it be acute or chronic?

In my not-so-theologically-equipped mind, I struggle to put my mind around the sovereignty of God, especially when it comes to the very difficult trials that come into our lives. A sick child is clearly one of those. And though this may be over-simplified, the question it comes down to for me is this: “Is He on His throne as King of kings and Lord of all the earth? Or is He not?”

Years ago a local youth group had a terrible tragedy on a weekend retreat. A pickup truck filled with sleeping bags and duffle bags was heading from the church to the home where one group of students was to spend the night. The students followed behind on the freeway, and all saw right away when one sleeping bag flew out of the pickup truck onto the freeway ahead of them. Apparently, they pulled over, and one student went out on the freeway to pick up the sleeping bag. Then, very tragically, the student was struck by an oncoming vehicle and killed.

I heard the senior pastor trying to offer counsel for the students and parents the following morning. And while it would be very difficult to know how to comfort those in the face of such a tragedy, I didn’t feel like his words went in the right direction. Some of the words he spoke were, “God didn’t plan this. This was not in His will. This is not what God wanted to happen here last night.”

Again, in my simple mind, it sounded to me like he was suggesting that God had taken a short break from His throne while the accident occurred. Which brings that question again, “Is He on His throne, or is He not?”

Remember the childhood song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands?” It gives me a picture of God as sovereign Creator of the universe, holding all of creation, especially man whom He created in His image, in His strong hands. If we are held within His strong hands, then only what He allows to come into our lives can get through to us. Whether He is the source of the difficulty, or if our sin, other sinners or Satan are the source, God allows it to come to us for a specific purpose that we may or may not ever know. We can know for certain, though, that His purpose is always to draw us closer into Himself, and shape us closer into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

Does God know when my child is going to be sick?

Yes- He is omniscient, all-knowing. He knows everything about everyone.

Is God able to make my child well?

Yes- He is omnipotent, all-powerful. Whether He does or not, He has the power to.

Is God here to help me through this hard?

Yes- He is omnipresent, ever-present. And He draws near to the brokenhearted.

The gospels tell of us several parents whose children were sick. Where did they turn? They turned to Jesus. One father cried out to Jesus with a very simple, yet honest and profound prayer. “Help me overcome my unbelief!”

May we learn to trust God with our sick children. Whether our plan is interrupted for a day or for years, may He grant us greater faith to trust that He is sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent through it all.

Hope Rejoices in the Triumph

victoryBut thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57

We can have hope because we know we win!

We are on the winning team. God has proclaimed that the battle has been won in Christ’s victory over death. We can rejoice knowing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is on our side. And though we may pick up some battle wounds along the way, we will reign with Christ in His victory in the end.

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.  1 Corinthians 15:19

Paul writes in length to the Corinthians about our lives being resurrected after death. He differentiates our natural bodies and our coming spiritual bodies, our perishable bodies that will become imperishable, our imperfect bodies to be made whole. Our hope is not only for this life, but for the eternal life still to come.

The hope of heaven gives great encouragement as we struggle with our own weaknesses, and the weaknesses of our loved ones. What is broken here will be restored in heaven forever. There are no wheelchairs, glasses, therapy sessions, or medications. There is no disability or disease, illness or injury, sin or sickness.

And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorified body.  Philippians 3:20

The flesh and bones that we dwell in for this life will be transformed to be like Christ in the life that is to come. And that brings us great hope. We can hold on through the difficulty of this lowly body- ours and that of those we love- knowing He will by His power bring every imperfection under His perfect control. Paul says, “We will all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51).

With God we will gain the victory, He will trample down our enemies.  Psalm 60:12

We face many enemies, all working to bring defeat into our lives. The enemies of fear, pride, ridicule, and shame seek to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). There may be people in our lives who for any number of reasons can be counted as enemies. We may view our child’s disability or illness as an enemy as well. A friend of mine fighting cancer referred to her cancer as “the monster.”

Knowing that God promises to defeat all of our enemies brings a joy and strength for the present battle. We can know He makes good of the evil that comes our way. Joseph said “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20). We can know He is with us fighting for us. “The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14). And we can know He will triumph in the end.

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4:13

We rejoice that Christ holds victory in store for His children. He wins!  And we win with Him.

May we endure through the trials of this day, holding on to the hope of the triumph to come. May we strive to see the little victories He gives us along the way as glimpses of the great victory He promises for eternity.

If we endure, we will also reign with Him. 2 Timothy 2:12

Hope Rejoices with the Truth

BibleHands

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  I Corinthians 13:7

Jesus calls Satan “a liar and the father of lies” and tells us “there is no truth in him.” The “prince of this world” seeks to deceive God’s children with lies- some obvious, some more subtle- and works to confuse, condemn, and ultimately control them. Satan’s lies rob us of joy, steal our peace, and leave us hopeless. We have all been his victim.

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Psalm 25:5

As we put our hope in God, we will seek His guidance and His truth. We will learn to flee from what is evil and rejoice with what is true. We will teach our children truth, and walk together with them in what is true.

There are several lies that are common among mothers of children with special needs.

“You can have it all.” The world offers a false promise that we can have a perfect marriage, perfect children, perfect job, perfect church and perfect home. We can easily fall prey to the lie that the “American dream” is within our reach if we will just go for it. And we can believe that we cannot be happy until we attain it all. But the truth is there are only so many hours in the day, and how we choose to spend those hours matters for eternity. Fleeing the material temptations and turning to eternal joy will bring lasting peace. Trusting God with where He has placed us and what He has given us, especially our children, allows us to rejoice and be content.

“You have to do everything.” It is a lie that we as mothers of “normal” children or children with special needs have to take care of everything and have all the answers. We may strive to be “Super Mom” and keep all the balls in the air, but we usually end up driving ourselves to exhaustion doing so. In our quest for control, we can easily cross into codependency- doing things for others they ought to be doing themselves. We lose sight of healthy boundaries and rob others of contributing in their roles. Each of us has a system of support that includes family, church, school, doctors who are gifted to help each of our children. We have to learn to let God use others to support our children, and to support us. Pride can keep us from receiving the good help God provides.

“It’s all your fault.” Shame and blame are Satan’s trademarks. If you experience either, you can know you’ve been lied to. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1). When we turn our focus inward, we can be quick to blame ourselves. But when we focus on Christ, we see His gentle eyes pouring out love and forgiveness. We are free to own sin or mistakes we may have made, and move towards reconciliation where needed. And we are also free to see where others have sinned, and move towards offering them forgiveness.

“If only you had…, this wouldn’t have happened.”  “Should’a, could’a, would’a” are more marks of Satan. Regret can rush in as we think and re-think what we could have done differently to change the present. We can get paralyzed in the past, and not face the present or prepare for the future. Paul writes, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13) Learning to trust God’s sovereign hand in our lives turns us from blaming ourselves (or even others), to seeking how He will bring glory to Himself through this.

“You can’t handle this.” Some trials seem too big to endure. Some disappointments or uncertainties bring overwhelming fear. Satan loves to throw lies that cause us to cower and hide, rather than reach out for the mighty hand of God when faced with great difficulty. And on one hand, this lie is true. We can’t handle this- on our own strength. But we can handle this with the help of our All-Powerful God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13).  We can rejoice knowing God is bigger, and “nothing is impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37)

We are wise to surround ourselves with truth to combat the lies Satan will cast our way. There is hope knowing truth can be found in God’s Word.

We can rejoice in the One who Himself is The Way, The Truth and The Life (John 14:6).